George Oppen

G
George Oppen
Exodus
Miracle of the children the brilliant
Children the word
Liquid as woodlands Children?

When she was a child I read Exodus
To my daughter 'The children of Israel. . .'

Pillar of fire
Pillar of cloud

We stared at the end
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Five Poems about Poetry
1

THE GESTURE

The question is: how does one hold an apple
Who likes apples

And how does one handle
Filth? The question is

How does one hold something
In the mind which he intends
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From a Photograph
Her arms around me—child—
Around my head, hugging with her whole arms,
Whole arms as if I were a loved and native rock,
The apple in her hand—her apple and her father,
and my nose pressed
Hugely to the collar of her winter coat—. There
in the photograph

It is the child who is the branch
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Leviathan
Truth also is the pursuit of it:
Like happiness, and it will not stand.

Even the verse begins to eat away
In the acid. Pursuit, pursuit;

A wind moves a little,
Moving in a circle, very cold.

How shall we say?
In ordinary discourse—
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Of Being Numerous: Sections 1-22
1

There are things
We live among ‘and to see them
Is to know ourselves’.

Occurrence, a part
Of an infinite series,

The sad marvels;

Of this was told
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Some San Francisco Poems: Sections 1-4
1

Moving over the hills, crossing the irrigation
canals perfect and profuse in the mountains the
streams of women and men walking under the high-
tension wires over the brown hills

in the multiple world of the fly’s
multiple eye the songs they go to hear on
this occasion are no one’s own
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Some San Francisco Poems: Sections 5-10
5

THE TRANSLUCENT MECHANICS

Combed thru the piers the wind
Moves in the clever city
Not in the doors but the hinges
Finds the secret of motion
As tho the hollow ships moved in their voices, murmurs
Flaws
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Song, the Winds of Downhill
‘out of poverty
to begin

again’ impoverished

of tone of pose that common
wealth

of parlance Who
so poor the words

would with and take on substantial
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‘And Their Winter and Night in Disguise’
The sea and a crescent strip of beach
Show between the service station and a deserted shack

A creek drains thru the beach
Forming a ditch
There is a discarded super-market cart in the ditch
That beach is the edge of a nation

There is something like shouting along the highway
A California shouting
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from Discrete Series: "Town, a town ..."
Town, a town,
But location
Over which the sun as it comes to it;
Which cools, houses and lamp-posts,
during the night, with the roads—
Inhabited partly by those
Who have been born here,
Houses built—. From a train one sees
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Image of the Engine
1

Likely as not a ruined head gasket
Spitting at every power stroke, if not a crank shaft
Bearing knocking at the roots of the thing like a pile-driver:
A machine involved with itself, a concentrated
Hot lump of a machine
Geared in the loose mechanics of the world with the valves jumping
And the heavy frenzy of the pistons. When the thing stops,
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Myth of the Blaze
night – skybird’sworld
to knowto knowin my life to know

what I have said to myself

the dark to escape in brilliant highways
of the night sky, finally
why had they not

killed me why did they fire that warning
wounding cannon only the one round I hold a
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Psalm
Veritas sequitur ... In the small beauty of the forest
The wild deer bedding down—
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from Of Being Numerous
9

‘Whether, as the intensity of seeing increases, one’s distance from Them, the people, does not also increase’
I know, of course I know, I can enter no other place

Yet I am one of those who from nothing but man’s way of thought and one of his dialects and what has happened to me
Have made poetry

To dream of that beach
For the sake of an instant in the eyes,

The absolute singular
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Populist
I dreamed myself of their people, I am of their people,
I thought they watched me that I watched them
that they

watched the sun and the clouds for the cities
are no longer mine image images

of existence (or song

of myself?) and the roads for the light
in the rear-view mirror is not
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Return
This Earth the king said
Looking at the ground;
This England. But we drive
A Sunday paradise
Of parkway, trees flow into trees and the grass
Like water by the very asphalt crown
And summit of things
In the flow of traffic
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Time of the Missile
I remember a square of New York’s Hudson River glinting between warehouses.
Difficult to approach the water below the pier
Swirling, covered with oil the ship at the pier
A steel wall: tons in the water,

Width.
The hand for holding,
Legs for walking,
The eye sees! It floods in on us from here to Jersey tangled in the grey bright air!
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Vulcan
The householder issuing to the street
Is adrift a moment in that ice stiff
Exterior. ‘Peninsula
Low lying in the bay
And wooded—’ Native now
Are the welder and the welder’s arc
In the subway’s iron circuits:
We have not escaped each other,
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